At The Crossroads: Trauma and Tragedy on Mother’s Day

“The car was driving aggressively towards the officer, prompting the shot.”

– Jonathan Haber, Police Chief, Balch Springs Police Department

“In an hurry to get the statement out, I misspoke.”

-Police Chief Haber (following the review of the police body camera)

“Our teenage sons can’t sleep at night.  They are either sleeping in the bed with us or sleeping with all the lights on.

When they fall asleep, they are having night terrors of seeing their brother murdered right there in front of them.

When they dream, they see Jordan, with smoke coming out of his head from the shot.  That’s what they were forced to see.

Our four-year-old daughter, who has accidentally overheard what happened, is drawing pictures of her big brother with a hole in his head.  What are we supposed to say to her?”

-Odell Edwards, Jordan Edwards’ father

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My Dear Readers,

My heart is heavy.  In my previous blog At The Crossroads: Empowerment When Playing The Game Is Not Enough, I was chided for perceived criticism of black parents seeking safety and protection raising their children in suburban communities.

Last week the Edwards family, a two parent African-American family with three teenage sons and a four year old daughter who reside in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, were the living the American dream.  Today, as the nation prepares for the upcoming annual Mother’s Day celebration, they have become just another black family preparing to bury their son, living a uniquely American nightmare.

Following the shooting death of Jordan Edwards, the police chief, without having reviewed the evidence, moved quickly to assert that the officer shot in self-defense.

There is, of course, the societal belief that these young black males were either gang members or malcontents involved in criminal activity, and therefore, got what they justly deserved.  As it turns out, they were simply kids at a neighborhood party who had left out of a sense of responsibility as it had got too crowded and rowdy.

As reported by Shaun King from the New York Daily News:

“Police swarmed the car, which was their dad’s personal vehicle, and forced all of the boys out at gunpoint.  The police, cursing and yelling, expressed no concern for Jordan.

As police demanded that the boys face away from them and walk backwards with their hands held above their heads, one of the cops, according to the sons, loudly mocked them for not knowing their left from their right.  They had just seen their brother shot in the forehead with a rifle.

At that point, Vidal, Kevon and their friend, who was in the car with them, were not only traumatized beyond comprehension, they were seriously wondering if they’d be shot and killed next.

What they were arrested for was being black kids in their own car, obeying the law, while witnessing their brother shot in the face by police, but no one could quite tell the the truth about that.  My guess is that the police hope they will find something-drugs, alcohol, expired registration, or a weapon of some sort but they found nothing.  The boys, in the most traumatic moment of their lives, had been profiled and detained for no reason on top of it all.”

There are countless variations on quotes exhorting us to never give up.  One variation is “Bad things happen; what matters most is that you get up and keep going.”

The Edwards family represents the embodiment of the American middle class family.  When closing one’s eyes, what does one see? A two-parent family residing in a suburban community, well respected, churchgoers with three teenage sons attending the local high school with no history of disciplinary concerns and unknown to the local police or judicial authorities.

Jordan Edwards was a straight A student, athlete.  He was everything his parents wanted him to be: smart, kind, hardworking, giving and a lover of sports

Now they have buried him one week before Mother’s Day.

The Edwards family also represents the embodiment of the nightmare for black families although breathing the same air, living in two alternative universes.  I am reminded of a recent Subaru auto sales commercial directed at two racial groups one white, the other black.

In the “white commercial,” it focuses on a little white boy growing up and driving his father’s car off to college with graying dad, mom standing with the family dog, with a prideful look waving farewell as he goes off to explore his new world.  In the “black commercial,” the teenager tells his mother that he’s taking the car to see his friends.

One commercial celebrates the bright and hopeful future of a confident and secure young man and the pride of his parents as he leaves home The other leaves out the truth of the stress and anxiety of the parent in quiet contemplation, fearing for the safety of her son and not being able to rest until his feet are heard back in the home again.

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Concluding Words

In his article, Shaun King writes that:

“The police have actually asked if they could attend the funeral, but they haven’t apologized for what they have done.”

It may be incredulous to some that the police would even ask to be in same space of those who have suffered severe psychological trauma by one of their own.  Or, it may be seen as an act of human connection on the part of the police reaching out to the family and the community.

The truth of this incident is the fact that psychological trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self.   Fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards’ future is over.  His family will forever be impacted by this event as well as the understanding that other black families continue to be  at risk for a similar experience.

The tragic death of Jordan Edwards reaffirm that our children represent our Achilles Heel, the soft area that we cannot protect from race related aggression.

Rather than focus on protecting our young people from racial strife, we should engage in empowering strategies that will also focus on healing the psychological wounds they are bound to continue to encounter in their lives.

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“’To err is human’ is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error.  In some cases there is no room for errorNone.

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Ten Flashes of Light

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Until the next crossroads.  The journey continues…


 

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The Shaming of Our LGBTQ Children

 

“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”

-Socrates, classical Greek Philosopher

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

-James Baldwin, African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic

“Fear is the only true enemy born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate.”

-Edward Albert, film & television actor, Golden Globe winner, 1972

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a 34-year-old black male, and I belong to a black church that my family has attended for four generations.  My great-grandfather was one of the founding members, and my grandfather and father have served faithfully as deacons for years.

I attend church services regularly, I pay my tithes, I play the piano for the choir, and I sing.  I am also gay.  I am in a loving monogamous relationship, but my family has asked that I keep this quiet from other church members.  As a result, when I attend church services, I do so without the person who brings joy to my life.

I have accepted the fact that they don’t want to see me as gay.  My parents and their church community are traditional and conservative people, and I know that there is nothing I can do about the way they think.

Recently, however, I encountered a news report about an act of hatred that has devastated me. One black man poured boiling hot water on two other young black men while they were lying in bed together, asleep.  He said he did it because they were gay.  Both men were terribly disfigured, and they showed the pictures. I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to my family, the pastor and the church’s deacon board with the hope that the church would speak out against this act of hatred within the black community, reach out to them in public prayer and offer them financial assistance from the congregation, but I was stunned by the response.  My family was silent; the pastor said he would pray privately for their salvation, but nothing public, and the deacon board decided that taking an offering for the victims was not within the guidelines of the gospel.

I continue to read and hear about the horrors these men have endured.  That could have been me—asleep one moment, and then awake and screaming in agony the next.  It plays over and over again in my mind, and I can’t sleep.  I have nightmares that the same thing could happen to my partner and myself.  I can’t eat, and I have taken time off from work to stay in bed.

I have spoken to my pastor, but I feel he has now forsaken me.  What would you recommend I do?

Sleepless and Invisible in Seattle

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My Dear Readers,

Lupita Nyong’o, in her acceptance speech for her 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film 12 Years A Slave, observed:

“Slavery is something that is, all too often, swept under the carpet. The shame doesn’t even belong to us, but we still experience it because we’re a part of the African race. If it happened to one, it happened to all. We carry that burden.”

Slavery was about exploitation, the buying and selling of human being as chattel.  However, it was also about hatred and the despicable acts we can do as one human to another.

And today?  Although African-Americans are legally free and among the most successful members of the African Diaspora, we psychologically remain traumatized; a shame-based community hidden in black silence.

The story being told here is an excellent example of this.  Here, we have a young man who is traumatized by an act of hatred and the horrendous suffering that has ensued. According to reporting by the Associated Press:

  • On 2.12.16 Martin Blackwell, a long-haul trucker who stayed at the home with his girlfriend, the mother of one of the victims, when he was in town, walked in and saw the two men sleeping next to each other.
  • Blackwell went into the kitchen, pulled out a pot, filled it with water and set it to boil. Moments later, he poured the scalding hot water over the men.
  • Then Blackwell allegedly yanked one of the men off the mattress, yelling “Get out of my house with all that gay,”
  • In the police report, he stated “They were stuck together like two hot dogs…so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out.” He added,” They’ll be alright.  It was just a little hot water.”
  • Both men were severely burned. One must now wear compression garments 23 hours a day for the next two years and attend weekly counseling and physical therapy.  The other male was burned even more severely, was placed in a medically induced coma for several weeks, having 60% of his body burned.  He will have to undergo skin grafts surgery to repair damage to his face, neck, back, arms, chest, and head.
  • The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Blackwell guilty of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Mr. Blackwell deserves to be punished for what he did.  Imagine the premeditation of the act, placing water on a stove, as it boiled, watching the two young men as they slept, peacefully in each other’s arms and just as calmly pouring hot scathing water upon them as they screamed out in pain and agony.  Mr. Blackwell committed a despicable act.  He deserves our contempt.

Instead, the community rewards him with silence.  We see ourselves as helpful neighbors, as in the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” but in this situation, as well as in hundreds of black churches throughout this country, we openly and consistently reject and shun those in our community who are gay and lesbian.

In the same breath that we seek to hold white people, the dominant racial group in our society, accountable for their abuse of the rights of people of color afforded them by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, we consistently deny those same rights to our own children if their sexual orientation does not mirror our own, or what we have come to believe is “natural,” or “right.”

The same 13 subtypes of cumulative complex traumas that African-Americans experience due to our race/ethnicity are the ones we inflict upon those in our own racial and ethnic groups because of differences in gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Specifically:

  • Macro-aggressive assault-threat of violence/death (e.g. pouring scathing boiling water on two sleeping men)
  • Micro-aggressive assault-brief, daily insults and dismissals (e.g. derogatory name calling)
  • Invisibility Syndrome-being unseen (e.g. feelings that one’s talents, personality and worth are not valued or recognized)
  • Just World-the shattering of the belief of the Goodness Principle (e.g. “I do good things, I deserve goodness and I will be rewarded with goodness.”)

 

And then there is Betrayal Trauma…..

One can only imagine how our gay and lesbian children must feel when the people they trust the most—their parents, siblings, extended family and church community turn against them upon learning of their sexual orientation.

Betrayal trauma is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Betrayal in general is traumatic.  However, the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and therefore the more devastating the traumatic impact.

In the situation of our writer, his situation is even more appalling.  His trauma was increased as he visualized the same horrendous act occurring to him.  He was psychologically wounded.  He went to those he trusted to provide assistance for these two men whom he identified with, and instead, received silence from his family, private acknowledgement from the pastor, and rejection from the deacon board.  In all three ways, they unknowingly abandoned him when they abandoned the two men who were attacked.

To add further hurt to a psychological wound individual, the family and church still wants him to remain committed to attending the church and not only contributing his tithes, but also as a choir member and instrumentalist. In essence, they want him to share his life and talents with them, but only those aspects that they have chosen.

I recommend that our writer:

  • Seek individual psychotherapy or other forms of mental health treatment
  • Heal the psychological wounds: understand that trauma is a permanent fixture that can be carried and with work, can become lighter
  • End the shackles of invisibility: become your own advocate, bring balance into your internalized self and calmness to your external environment
  • Finally, should he desire to stay as a member of the church congregation, be out and free completely. “I’m gay, I’m here and I am not going anywhere.”

 

Concluding Words

As stated earlier, there are 13 sub-types of cumulative complex traumas that can impact African-Americans on a daily basis.  Of these, betrayal trauma can be the most devastating due to the vulnerability and the open exposure of the victimized individual and the nature of implicit and explicit trust.

As a clinical traumatologist, my consistent message has been that trauma is a permanent fixture within the psychological self.  The psychological scars may eventually heal, but the experience and the proceeding trauma is forever.  It will never ever go away.

Betrayal trauma is devastating, and healing and recovery from it is extremely difficult.  However, healing and recovery is possible.  The individual must want to embrace the trauma and in doing so, own and honor the experience.  The result can be a life in which the incident lightens and becomes carried by the sufferer, instead of a weight that lies upon his back.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence by the good people.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

Love and Fear: Corporal Punishment Part 2

“A lie, told often enough, becomes the truth.”

-Vladimir Lenin

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

-Adolf Hitler

“When a myth is shared by large numbers of people, it becomes a reality.”

-Lawrence Blair

Dear Dr. Kane:

I don’t think Mrs. Spears did anything wrong and she should not be held accountable for punishing her children.  I think everything that has transpired gives the children the power to “do what they want” – and leads them to become career criminals—because  seeing their mother punished for disciplining them means that what they were doing is okay.

Instead of arresting Ms. Spears, they should have filed charges against the kids for the false report, and given them community service as a punishment.  This would be a win-win, in that it supports Ms. Spears’ position that what they did was wrong, it requires them to do something good for the community, and it gives them something to do.

It‘s unfortunate that people believe that spanking is the same as child abuse.  I think spanking is misunderstood.  As parents, it is our responsibility to raise good, upstanding kids that fear criminal activity. This poor mom needs help, not punishment.

A Concerned Reader, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

Last week, I wrote about the story of an African-American mother who had physically disciplined her three sons for breaking into a neighbor’s home.   She disciplined them by hitting them with a RCA extension cord.  The encounter resulted in bleeding, lacerations, bruising, and cuts.  The mother was arrested, charged with child abuse and the children were removed from her custody.

In my response, I defined the difference between a spanking, which, done in a controlled manner, can be insightful, and a beating where the intent is to cause pain, fear, and psychological trauma.    I also provided research clearly showing that corporal punishment does not reduce black male criminal behavior.   Yet the responses show overwhelming support for physical punishment.  Why?

A dear friend and judge in the King County Superior Court recently sent me the following email after listening to a local African-American radio station:

“The radio callers absolutely supported the mother with the extension cord.  I waited in vain for another voice to be heard.”

Following the receipt of this email, I immediately sent the radio station last week’s blog, which included the data the lack of impact of corporal punishment on African-American male incarceration.  Despite my repeated attempts, the radio station has not responded.

In my role as a clinical traumatologist, I have provided data and clinical insight regarding the consequences of psychological trauma being impacted upon the African-American community, specifically affirming that as descendants of those enduring slavery, segregation and other forms of oppression, we are a people who are submerged deeply in trauma.  Yet we are openly applauding, supporting and encouraging methods of physical discipline that serve to reinforce our trauma…under the guise of good parenting?

There are several factors that influence the African-American community to support and encourage physical i.e. corporal punishment:

  • The fear of the police
  • Holding onto their own traumatic experiences of suffering under white oppression
  • Unresolved frustrations of social factors in which we have little control
  • The misreading of Scripture i.e. Proverbs 13:24. Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

 

Dr. Kane’s Truths

We have bought the lie and have now made it our truth. 

Although a spanking may be viewed as a controlled method to gain a specific response, it now has been placed on the same plateau as a beating, which, during slavery times is nothing more than an uncontrolled reaction meant to simultaneously release one’s anger and to inflict pain and fear to another.

We have brought the psychological trauma of the slave master into the 21st Century and called it our own.

The argument of the parent’s right to utilize corporal punishment is as old and no different from that of a slave master in the 18th Century arguing his right to punish his slaves as he sees fit to do so.   Both arguments carry the themes of maintenance of order and discipline.

We live in fear.  We live in fear of the unknown that surrounds us.

As African-Americans, we live in a heightened state of vigilance.  This vigilance, over time, can make us act out our reactions based on fear, instead of us using that vigilance to craft responses based on balanced emotions and thoughts.  When one’s foundation is severely shaken, one can commit actions that can be psychologically traumatizing to self and others.

We beat our children because we do not love ourselves.

As terrible as this may sound, consider the following:

  • Why do we utilize the model of the slave master’s discipline towards our children?
  • Why do we support corporal punishment that results in lacerations, bleeding, bruising and cuts?
  • Why do we hold to biblical scriptures that reinforcing psychological trauma?
  • Why are we pressing, forcing for our children to model our behavior i.e. to live in fear?

 

Concluding Words

What will become of Ms. Spears?

Most likely, the district attorney will wait six months or so until the furor dies down and will quietly craft a plea bargain with Ms. Spears that acknowledges the error of her well-intended actions.  In return, she will be sentenced to probation, with a commitment not to re-offend, community service—most likely public speaking about child abuse, and parenting classes.  Her children will then be returned to her custody.

What will be gained or learned from this experience?

Nothing.  Ms. Spears and other single mothers raising their children will continue to view themselves and be viewed as victims of a racist and oppressive system.  Neither they nor the wider African-American community will further investigate the issues of psychological trauma or other methods of child and adolescent rearing without corporal punishment.

Why are we resistant to changing the way we discipline our children?

One, we have bought the lie that beating our children is the optimal way to raise them, and in using scripture to support that reasoning, we have made it our truth.  Just as the reader said,

“It is our responsibility to raise good upstanding kids that fear criminal activity and encourage the good.”

It may sound good, but this is clearly not true.  Yes, it is a parent’s responsibility to raise their children to be obedient to them and to be upstanding citizens. However, it is also a parent’s responsibility to ensure moral development.  We want to believe that our children will be good citizens and do good things because it is the right thing to do, not because of the fear of being incarcerated.

Two, we are comfortable “living in fear.”  This comfort does not mean we are happy. Instead, it means that we are so comfortable with these methods that we are not willing to even investigate others, for fear that they will not do the job well enough, regardless of data that shows how ineffective it is, and how it harms our children.  We are afraid of learning and adapting new and different methods in working with our children, so we choose to remain in our fear instead of being willing to do something different, which would require us to move forward, taking our fears with us.

Three, we are doing what we know, and not seeking other means.  We continue with the methods that we know, telling ourselves that “it worked with me, therefore it will work for my children.” Of the three reasons, this is the most dangerous because it assumes that simply because these methods worked in the past, that they will work in the future. This is like saying that because a computer worked for our purposes in the 1970s, it works for us now, even though it clearly cannot.  Environments change, our knowledge and consciousness expands, and most importantly, people transform.

As a community, we as African-Americans are traumatized and beholden to our past.  We beat our children to encourage good citizenry, even though our actions do not model those behaviors, under the guise of protecting them from a racist and inhumane criminal justice system.  In reality, all we are doing is shifting our anger, frustration and fear to those we say we love and sacrifice the most for.

Meanwhile, as the beatings continue, black males continue to have high rates of incarceration, high rates of domestic violence, and high rates of mental illness, drug abuse, and alcoholism—all of which are clear indicators of complex psychological trauma.

So the next time you beat your child, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did the same actions by the slave masters prevent the slaves from being disobedient or escaping the “loving care” of their masters?
  • Did fear make the slave into a better person? Will this do the same for your child?
  • Did the welts, bruises and pain inflicted onto the slave grow into “pleasant memories”? How will you respond when your grandchild comes to you for comfort following the same infliction of pain, fear, and trauma that you inflicted as a parent?

Please remember that psychological trauma is a permanent fixture within the body and psychological self. Those who are whipped and beaten down are likely to pass on the same behavior to their children.  If you love yourself, then don’t physically hurt your children.  There is already a cruel and inhumane criminal justice system waiting for the opportunity to do so.

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

Corporal Punishment: When Love Hurts

“I brought you into this world and before the police get a hold of you, I will take you out.”

-A mother, speaking to her 13-year-old son

“I had a single parent, and hey, she had to discipline us. Yeah, I got hit by an ironing cord, but it made me a better person. It saved my life… she explained why she had to hit us, why she had to discipline us, why we had to be home at a certain time,” Villa said. “It just is not easy for black women in America.”

-Mr. Villa, an 83 year old elder

Dear Dr. Kane:

Raising kids is a challenge these days. Many parents feel they are “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”  On one hand, if those children had been caught breaking into that house by the police, the media and the members of the greater society would have questioned where the parents were at the time and blamed them for not disciplining their kids. On the other hand, attempts to discipline children vary in techniques and efficacy. Some, like corporal punishment, are viewed as effective, but abusive and detrimental to a child’s development.

We have a serious crime problem.  I can see that this woman is trying her best to keep her kids on the straight and narrow so they can grow up to be productive men.  I hope they drop the charges against her and she gets her kids back.  Maybe they can also help her get them counseling. What do you think?”

-Single Parent Mother, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

There are many questions being asked whether we should physically discipline our children.  All 50 states have laws that allow corporal punishment, but its legality does not mean that it should be utilized.

Last week a woman we will call Ms. Spears, mother of three sons ages 13, 12 and 10, was arrested on charges for felony child abuse.  It happened when the mother witnessed her sons breaking into a neighbor’s home.

In disciplining her sons, she admitted to hitting them.  It is alleged by her eldest son that she used a RCA extension cord.  The eldest son is reported to have lacerations on his arms and marks on his leg, shoulder, back and stomach.  The other two boys reportedly had cuts and scratches on their arms and hands.

Ms. Spears was arrested on two counts of cruelty to juveniles.  She has no prior convictions and was released on a $1,000 bail that was posted by individuals who had read about the incident.  A lawyer has volunteered to take her case without pay.  The children have since been removed from the mother’s custody and placed in state foster care.

Ms. Spears feels that she has been victimized. She states:

“It’s been hell.  I never imagined that trying to be a good mother would end me up in jail with a criminal record like I’m a predator out to get my kids who I live for.  Everything I do is for my kids.”

To add more fuel to the firestorm, Ms. Nicholson, the neighbor whose home was the target of the break in, says that Ms. Spears should be commended and not punished for her actions:

“If it was me, I’m gonna beat you before I let the cops kill you.  I’m gonna do what I have to do.  I’m not going to let my children steal and kill and do all of that.  I’m not gonna let them fall to the streets.”

Several questions arise:

  • Is there a difference from a spanking, whipping and a beating?
  • Will such discipline prevent or reduce black male criminal behavior?
  • Can psychological trauma result from corporal punishment? If so why do black parent contribute to the trauma?
  • Should the mother face legal sanctions including removal of the children from her care?

What is the difference between a spanking and a beating?

 Spanking is defined as a type of corporal punishment involving the act of striking the buttocks of another person to cause physical pain.  It is usually done with an open hand.  More severe forms of spanking include the use of an implement such as a paddle or a belt, instead of a hand.

Beating is defined as a punishment or assault in which the victim is hit repeatedly and violently so as to hurt them usually with an implement such as a club or whip.  The objective of a beating may be to overcome a problem or take action to avoid difficult effects of an event or circumstance.

Will corporal punishment prevent or reduce black male criminal behavior?

It doesn’t appear so. Studies show that black parents are more likely to use corporal punishment than any other ethnic or racial group.  However, statistics on the incarceration of black males show that although African-Americans make up 12-13% of the national population, black males constitute 35% of jail inmates and 37% of prison inmates of the 2.2 million inmates in 2014.  Statistics by age group:

  • A black male born in 1991 has a 29% chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life.
  • One out of nine African American men will be in prison between the ages of 20 and 34.
  • Black males ages 30-34 have the highest crime rate of any race/ethnicity, gender and age combination.
  • In 2014, 6% of all black males ages 30 to 39 were in prison.
  • The lifetime chances of going to prison are 32.2% for Black males.
  • 1 in 3 black males will go to prison in their lifetime.

Can psychological trauma result from corporal punishment?  If so why do black parent contribute to the trauma?

Psychological trauma, in the form of complex trauma, has already impacted generations of African-American males.  Historically, the bodies of black males have been subjected to terror associated with racial control through centuries of slavery, lynching, sexual violence, surveillance, segregation, mass incarceration and police practices.

In cultural practice, Black parents in their actions are responding to a system that targets black males.  This is done through harsh physical punishment being meted out in a manner to protect their male children from the consequences of interactions with the police or incarceration by impressing upon them severe consequences for disobeying them—impressing upon them the critical importance of their message.  However, underlying all of this is the parental fear based on their experiences of suffering and random violence at the hands of white people.

 Concluding Remarks

“I’m from the South.  Whipping-we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.”

-Charles Barkley, sports commenter/former NBA basketball player

Charles Barkley is correct. Corporal punishment is a reality in the African-American community.  In fact, many would state that spanking children has long been a badge of superiority and morality in black communities.  It has been viewed as a centerpiece of black identity, quality parenting and responsible citizenship.

There is no empirical evidence that corporal punishment prevents or reduces criminal behavior.  As a result, if we are to succeed in parenting, guiding and mentoring our children and adolescents we must want to find other means and methods in disciplining, and communicating our concerns that are effective in not only protecting those children from police contact, but protecting the wider society from their bad behavior.   While the intent of corporal punishment is to protect our children from the system, in doing so, we may be adding to their trauma as they are preparing themselves to live in a world that is hostile to both their race and in the case of African-American girls, their gender.

Should Ms. Spears face legal sanctions, including the removal of her children from her care?

Yes.  The mother should face legal sanctions.  She may have meant well in her attempts to guide her children, however her actions resulted in physical lacerations, bruises and cuts on the physical areas of minor children. There is a possibility that those children now suffer psychological trauma, not only as a result of the physical wounding, but also due to them being removed from their home.

Instead of holding to the role of being victimized by a harsh and careless police department and child welfare system, the mother must want to understand the role she played that led to her children’s physical and emotional condition and their removal from her care.  Saying “I beat them to save them from themselves” is not acceptable.

If the mother is not held accountable to her actions, the children may be placed at risk again.  Furthermore, this may send a message to others that places other children at risk.  The mother should not be incarcerated, but she should be provided with counseling, mentoring for her children and community supervision. This woman should not be criminalized for using the wrong method to protect her sons from a system that historically has targeted black males.

This mother must learn, as we all must learn, to live with fear and not in fear.  We must learn to hold our fear while teaching our children how to strive and thrive in a world that may be hostile to them.

Until the next crossroads… the journey continues.

Love: Protection, or Control?

 

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”

-John F. Kennedy

“Why are we training girls how not to get raped but not teaching boys not to rape?”

-Kappa Alpha Fraternity member

My Dear Readers,

Father’s Day should be a positive and happy memory for those of us who are honored to be called Dad (or Daddy, DaDa, Pops, Old Man, etc.) As a father, the day reminds me to work towards transforming this world in a better place—something that I think of as my responsibility to my children.

Now that Father’s Day 2016 has passed, I want to share with you a letter I received from a father who is tormented by the fact that his daughter was sexually exploited and victimized at the age of twelve. While it is important that we honor the father’s suffering as described in the letter, it is also essential for us to remain focused on the trauma, pain, and recovery of this young woman.

No female either child, adolescent or adult should have to endure such an experience. Sadly, however, such experiences are becoming more and more common.

In the United States, there are approximately 150 million women, epidemiological data indicates that of this, 68 million women will be victimized over the course of their lives.

  • 1 in 4 females in the United States will be a victim of either sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional neglect, being the offspring of a parent who has depression, or substance abuse.
  • 12% of women are likely to be raped at some point in their lives.
  • If the female is in the military, this rate could jump to 50%
  • Domestic violence occurs once every 15 seconds in the United States.
  • The epidemiological data indicates that 38% of women will be repeatedly victimized.

Beneath these horrendous statistics, however, lie the very real and very human stories of those who have survived these assaults, and those who are charged with helping their loved ones to heal.

Below is such a story…

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Dear Dr. Kane,

As I begin to prepare to celebrate Father’s Day with my two children, Todd (age 16,) and Brittany (age 13,) (NOTE: Names have been changed for their protection), I am painfully aware that my daughter was inappropriately touched in a sexual manner by a stranger while she waited for a bus that would take her to school.  I came across this information while browsing through one of her old journals.

My wife has already screamed at me for reading her journal, but kids today are so secretive– how else would I know what’s going on in her life?   When I confronted her about what happened, she became extremely upset.  She said that she told her friends, but didn’t want to tell me because she was afraid of how I would react, and that I wouldn’t allow her to ride the bus anymore.

I am livid.  I am her father, and I have the right to know these things. She may not consider what happened to her to be molestation, but I do—and it is my responsibility to protect her from harm.

So, I’m going to protect her.  She can no longer ride the public bus.  Her mother and I will simply drive her to whatever activities she wants to attend.  I will have her brother serve as an escort for social outings.  I will develop a check-in policy that will ensure that she is safe.

This upsets my family, but we are African-American; as the head of the house, I expect them to follow the structure that I am laying down.

My wife has suggested that I write and seek feedback from you.  I am doing so, but my mind is already made up.

-Not Budging, Seattle WA

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My Dear Sir,

First, please accept my sincere regrets as to what happened to your daughter.  Second, although you say that your mind is made up, I will assume that since you have taken the crucial step of writing to me, you are open to dialogue and you are willing to listen.

To put it bluntly, the very next actions you take may decide the psychological impact this incident has on your daughter for the rest of her life and whether your family will be able to remain together.

You have justified your intrusion into your daughter’s private writings, your limitation of her access to travel outside your purview and the restructuring of the family’s comings and goings by claiming that you are “the protector” and the head of the household.  However, you are assuming this role simply   because of your own pain and anguish under the concept of male privilege.

Male privilege can be defined as a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to individual as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class.   Here’s how I see you asserting your male privilege in this situation:

Reading your daughter’s journal

Your daughter may have utilized the journal as a way to work through the aftermath of the traumatic incident she experienced.  That journal was a source of healing and protection for her, and by reading it without her consent, you have violated her for a second time.  In essence, because of your actions, your daughter experienced the traumatic event once again.

Limiting your daughter’s travel

Your daughter will not see this as you protecting her.  Instead, she will see this as you punishing her for being victimized.  Essentially, you are telling her that if she hadn’t been where she was, this would not have happened.  This is a disservice to your daughter because it makes her responsible for what happened to her, when it is not her fault at all.  As a result, this reinforces any negative self-concept she may have.

Your daughter may start keeping secrets

Your daughter may feel that you are punishing her for not sharing information with you that was traumatic and extremely overwhelming for her.  Instead, she chose to share with close friends who provided comfort to her.  Once again, she is being re-victimized, this time by her father.

Sacrificing personal freedoms

There appears to be no input from the other family members, who now have to change their routines or plans to provide the “protection” that you now deem necessary for your daughter. Essentially, you are sacrificing their personal freedoms to “protect” the “victim.”

 Disclosing information

You seem to be concerned about the impact on the family’s image if your daughter’s experience is made public.  By prioritizing image over the psychological wellness of your daughter, you may be further de-stabilizing the family, particularly as your daughter realizes that all of these changes are because of her.

Recommendations

  • Acknowledge and accept responsibility for reading the journal. Extend the gift of an apology and seek forgiveness for your actions.

  • Encourage your daughter to engage in an assessment to determine whether further counseling is warranted.

  • Consider family counseling focused on understanding the rights of adolescents in decision making and activities that may impact their lives.

  • Consider marital counseling focused on transforming the structure from a traditional male-headed household to a shared partnership.

  • Consider individual psychotherapy for yourself focused on processing your own feelings of powerlessness associated with your daughter’s sexual assault.

Concluding Remarks

There are two victims here: a 12-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted on her way to school, and her father, who is trapped in his status of male privilege.

Every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual place in the social hierarchy, but nonetheless, every man, simply by virtue of being male, benefits from male privilege. We make the mistake of viewing these adverse experiences as challenges to our own roles, and instead of providing comfort to those we love, we instead assert control so that it makes us feel better about where we stand in the situation.

As fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands, we must want to utilize our privilege to advocate for change.  We must not accept the status quo without demanding the change that others deserve in order to live without fear of abuse.

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

With vs. In Fear: From Parent to Advocate

 

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

-Virginia Woolf, Author

 

My Dear Readers:

When does a parent cease being a parent? The simple response is when the child is grown and out of the nest.  That simple answer, however, is wrong.  The “real” response is never.  Even in death, your parenting remains alive and flourishing. When we parent, we cast the shadow of our wisdom and experience upon our children. As much as we consciously transfer what we know to be true, we also unconsciously transfer our fears.

There is a tendency to “forget” that when our children reach adulthood, our roles as parents must change.  Instead of directing, managing and controlling, we must seek to advise them instead of leading them, and become a consultant in the decisions they make, instead of the decision makers ourselves. Easy to say; difficult to do.

Below is such a story……..

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Dear Visible Man,

I don’t know what else to do.  I have spoken to my girlfriends; I have spoken to my pastor.  I have prayed to my Lord and still I cannot find relief.

While having dinner at one of Seattle’s finest restaurants recently, my daughter told me that she’s decided to celebrate her 30th birthday in New Orleans. She considers this her vacation—she wants to relax and enjoy the atmosphere that the city is known for.  I, on the other hand, am worried about her  traveling alone.

I feel betrayed. How could she do this without asking me?  To make it worse, she manipulated the situation by choosing to tell me this in a public setting instead of at home, where I could react the way that I wanted to.  Of course, she knew that I would go “angry black woman” on her in a public setting.

I understand that my daughter is an adult and has the right to make her own decisions.  But traveling alone in the South?  Especially during these troubled times?  She could have traveled with a girlfriend.  I would have even reluctantly approved if she, as an unmarried and single woman traveled with a male escort.

I grew up during the days of the segregated South.  I will never forget watching on television as the police released dogs to bite civil rights marchers.  In those days, a single black woman traveling alone and unattached was simply unheard.  I would have never ever considered the idea.  My own mother would have had me committed to a mental institution.

What the hell is wrong with young black people today?  It’s even more dangerous to be black in this day and age than it was then. After all, what happens if she gets into trouble?  Who is she going to go to for help?  The police?

I don’t trust the police in the South, and I’m really uncomfortable with my daughter’s trip, especially now that it appears they are targeting black women like Sandra Bland.  I spoke to my daughter about that college-educated and professional woman who was arrested following a simple traffic stop and later turned up dead supposedly hanging in a jail cell.

Most recently, the police conducted a cavity search of a black woman in public after stopping her car due to the suspicion that she was transporting drugs.  A cavity search in public, spread over a patrol car?  The police would have never dared conduct such a heinous violation has she been a white woman.  I have repeatedly heard the news stories on this and have nightmares of that happening to my daughter.

My daughter knows about these incidents and still, she insists on traveling alone.  My daughter is a college educated, professional woman.  I raised her to be an independent thinker.  I just don’t understand why she would do something as dangerous as this.

Please help.  As a professionally trained clinician, she will listen to you.  Evidently, she no longer trusts her mother.

-Disappointed & Frightened in Seattle

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My Dear Woman,

It appears that in your daughter’s decision, you have now chosen to use my opinion to try to change your daughter’s direction.  Please note that I have utilized the word direction instead of mind, thoughts or focus.

I can sense your desperation. However, you have made two erroneous assumptions: one, that I agree with your position, and two, that I would allow myself to be manipulated in some misguided effort to save your daughter from herself.  Let’s start by taking a moment to follow the Five Rs of Relief.

  • First take a Step away from the emotions of the situation and catch your breath. Breathe.
  • Next, own your reactions.  Why?  Because these emotions and no one else.
  • Then take time for reflection. This is the processing of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Afterward, develop your response, for it is your response and not your reaction that you must want your daughter to listen to.
  • Finally, reevaluate the situation. Ask yourself: What did I learn from this?  How would I handle a similar situation differently the next time?

Is your daughter being manipulative by having the discussion in a public setting rather than at home?  Did she betray you by buying the tickets without your consent or at the very least, obtain your input?

Yes, you were manipulated, but no, you were not betrayed.  For betrayal to occur there must be the intent of the betrayer and a specific loss by the victim.  Was she being deceptive? Yes.  However, what is being impacted is your ego.  You were simply outplayed by your daughter. 

Let’s assume that you have entered the stage of reflection, consider the following possibilities.  In her actions, your daughter:

  • Knew you would disagree, so she let you know that she bought nonrefundable tickets,
  • Was aware of the difficulty of getting you to listen without reacting, so she made the decision to inform you in a pubic setting.
  • Finally, she acted as a result of the training that you, the parent taught her.

In your own words, “I raised her to be an independent thinker”.   As you follow the steps of respite (step away), reaction (calm the emotions), and move towards reflection (consider your daughter’s actions), prior to moving towards the step of response, please consider that your daughter:

  • is an adult, and therefore able to make her own decisions,
  • is aware of the possible negative consequences of this decision and,
  • despite your objections, has decided to go in the direction she feels is the right choice for herself.

As you consider these factors, reevaluate your feelings.  Due to your experiences, are you living in fear?  Do you want your daughter to do the same?

As a clinical traumatologist , it has been my experience that many African-Americans suffer from complex trauma resulting from unresolved traumatic memories.  It is feasible that due to your experiences, you may be replaying “old tapes” and in doing so, are allowing those unresolved memories to shape your current feelings.

It may be that your daughter, by her decision to travel alone, has chosen to live with fear instead of living in fear.  The probability of you living in fear is more likely given your earlier statement that despite your conservative views, you would had approved of your daughter who is single and unmarried to travel with a male escort.  The idea of being dependent upon a male directly contradicts the independent thinking you have reinforced within your daughter.

 

Concluding Words

The most difficult phase of life for parents can be transitioning out of the role of being directors, supervisors and managers in the lives of their children.  Now that the child is an adult, the parent may have difficulty transforming into a different role in which their position changes towards the model that I have designated as advisors, bystanders and consultants (ABC).  This becomes ever more stressful given your concerns of macro-aggressive assault (physical violence) and being powerless to assist your daughter.

Please consider the following recommendations:

  • Have belief, faith and trust in your daughter’s decision-making abilities. Remember that you taught her to be an independent thinker.
  • Process your desire to control/direct your daughter’s actions and directions.
  • Cease the manipulation and the desire to control. Engage in open communication with your daughter.  Stress your concerns without dismissing her decisions.
  • Create a system of communication and contact via phone while she is vacationing in the area that raises concern for you.
  • Seek support of your own friends, but remember that they are not professionally trained. Seek professional assistance such as psychotherapy to process the unresolved traumatic memories of violence you are dealing with.

Complex trauma leaves a permanent imprint within the psychological self.  Such traumas never ever go away or disappear.   The goal in psychotherapy is not to terminate, control or manage these memories but to learn how to balance these memories in one’s lives so these will have the minimum and not maximum impact.

Be open to your daughter’s independence. Is she seeking the life and freedom that you may have denied yourself?  To fulfill life is to have achieved the meaning of life.  In contrast, to live in fear is to deny life and the meaning life can bring.

“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warm you that you will be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.”

-Abraham Maslow, Psychologist and Author

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

Reflection On Father’s Day: The Passing of Theodore T. Kane

Our Dear Readers:  

    This is the text of the eulogy that Dr. Kane delivered for his father, Theodore T. Kane, who passed away last Friday. As we celebrate our fathers and what they do and have done for us, Dr. Kane wanted to share his reflection on the man who did so much to shape his life. We honor Dr. Kane’s generosity in sharing this experience during this tough time. Thank you.  

— The Staff At Loving Me More

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Friday June 26, 2015

Greetings to our family, friends, comrades, and peers of Sergeant Theodore T. Kane.

My brother, former Associate Director of the California Department of Corrections Anthony Peter Kane and I, Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist and Forensic Psychologist, welcome you to share in the homegoing services of our father.  He has gone up yonder to continue the partnership he established for 61 years with our mother, Mary Kane.

Although many of you may find it strange that I would include our professional titles, we are following our father’s lead.  Every time our father introduced us to anyone, regardless of whether we’d met them before, he would say, “these are my sons, Tony, who’s a warden, and Micheal, who’s a doctor.”  Of course, this usually embarrassed us, and we would ask him repeatedly to just introduce us as Tony & Micheal, understanding that Tony was retired and I was hiding out from my patients.  Our father would say okay, okay, and then do exactly the same thing over and over.

Our father was proud of his sons and he wanted everyone to know it.  Although there were times I felt I was a show horse, prancing around, I could understand why he did so.

We were a reflection of him.  Our success was truly his success.  Without him and his sacrifices, there wouldn’t have been a Tony Kane, Associate Director of the California Department of Corrections, or a Dr. Micheal Kane Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Psychologist.

Our father and mother truly had class!  When our mother passed away several years ago, she did so on Valentines Day, ensuring that she will always be remembered.

I guess our father decided he was not to be outdone by our mother as he joined her five days prior to Father’s Day.  In doing so, he ensured that he too would have his own special day in which he would be remembered.

Knowing how direct our father was, it is clearly apparent that he wanted acknowledgement on that day.   So as we give a warm and loving sendoff to “up yonder”, I will also utilize this time to honor him and the men of his generation and share with you what he meant to us as a father and what they meant to us as men.

We honor these men for their commitment to their children as well as the roles and responsibilities that they took on during the difficult times they lived in. These are the men who grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and lived through the difficult times of racial discrimination and domestic terrorism and great humility, and who without question protected and defended this country while serving in a segregated military during and after WWII.

This was also the generation that integrated the armed forces in the 1950’s and went on to defend this country during the Korean and Vietnam wars.  As they fought for liberty, democracy and freedom for others around the globe, they knew that they and their families would be denied the enjoyment of those same ideals in their home country.

Those men who served in France during WWII had earned the name of “Men of Iron.”  During WWII, the African-American soldiers, due to segregation were not allowed to fight in American military units.  Instead, they were welcomed to fight alongside French soldiers, fighting under the French flag.  Because these men fought with distinction and courage, their French comrades, with gratitude, designated these black soldiers with the title of “Men of Steel.”

Following their return home, these Black American troops endured domestic terrorism, burnings of their homes, businesses and churches and the loss of many lives.  Those of us who are members of the post WWII “baby boom generation” are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. It is with that in mind that we, as their descendants, show our gratitude and honor these men.

Our father came from this generation, a generation that understood the meaning of duty, honor and service. It was his commitment to duty that placed him in harm’s way.  Our father served during the Korean War and did two tours in Vietnam.

Although they were nicknamed the “Men of Iron”, in reality, their blood flowed red.  These were simply good men who sought a better life and better education for their children.

Our father and many men like him did what they could to insulate their loved ones from the ills of the world so that we could be children and just do what children do.  Although we spent our developmental years growing up during segregation, our father did what he could to give my brothers and I a normal life.  During his military service we went abroad, living in countries such as France and Germany.

Our father and other fathers of his generation were giants in our eyes.  He was always looking sharp in his carefully laid out uniform, laden with military decorations.  Whenever he gave or returned a military salute, it was done with precision, pride, and self-respect.  We were always proud of him and wanted him to be proud of us.

Our father was proud of his “Kane Boys.” We went on to became successful in our adult lives, serving in roles as non commissioned officer in the armed forces, a doctor of clinical psychology and lastly the associate director of a state corrections department.  None of his sons got into trouble with the law.  No, we were not angels and yes we were mischievous, but as an elderly Southern woman would say to my father, “your boys were raised right.”

It was with great sadness that his eldest son died ten years ago, succumbing to his wounds received while serving in combat during the Vietnam War. For the first time, we saw our father devastated by the responsibility of burying his son.

Tony and I made a covenant that we would spare our parents the grief of burying any more of their children.  Instead we would do what children must do in life, which is to escort their parents to their final resting spot. And as you can see, we are here we today, keeping that covenant.

The only time we can recall seeing disappointment on our father’s face was when the military failed to follow through on their commitment to promote him to the next grade.  This was a promotion that he had worked hard to obtain.  As one would expect, our father rebounded, retired from military service and went on to continue working in public service by become a federal police officer, a position which he held for 20 years.

The nickname “Men of Steel” suited my father and his peers very well.  They were truly brothers.  They came together not just to party and socialize; they were there for each other during dark and difficult times.  However they never, ever shared a word with the children regarding the racism and discrimination they themselves were struggling with.

As Men of Iron, they kept their feelings within themselves.  It was not until I wrote a book on complex trauma that I discovered what my father and the men of his generation had endured so that the children of the baby boom generation could have and enjoy the life that they themselves did not or could not have.

It was only during this time that I realized that these men suffered from internalized depression and anxiety.  It was during this time in which I came to understand the depth of complex trauma, which the men of this generation and f generations to follow were vulnerable to. They suffered from psychological stress and due to cultural beliefs, these men, kept quiet. They suffered in silence.

In my book, Our Blood Flows Red: Trauma and African-American Men in Military Service, I wrote about men who, like my father, responded to the call of duty during a time in which their courage and ability to fight was always questioned due to their race.

Our father never brought the ills of the world home.  At home, he was Daddy.  He was playful at times and he was strict at other times.  He encouraged us in our academics and sports activities.

He had high expectations of his sons.  He believed in tearing up that behind when we earned it.  He was fair in his treatment of others and known as a good man, a good friend to all.  As his sons, we know that he was proud of us as men, and the accomplishments we had achieved both professionally and personally.

He, like the men of his generation, was a good provider.  No doubt these men had problems in their marital relationships, but like the others, he did not believe in divorce, so he and our mother worked out their differences.  As a husband he was an excellent role model.  He taught us that a marriage was a lifelong commitment and he led by example after being married to our mother for 60 years.

He loved our mother dearly. Every time you saw one of them, the other was not far away.  I attributed his example as a key cause of the longevity of my and my brothers’ marriages.  Following the passing of his first wife to which they were married 15 years, Tony met Brandi, and has been married to her for 10 years.  As for myself, prior to the passing of my Linda two years ago, we were married 28 years.

As to the term daughter in law, the word “in law” was not a word used in his vocabulary.  To him all of us were simply his family.  He loved us and we loved him. Daddy was all about touching.  We grow up hugging and kissing and nothing changed when we became grown men. I only wish more grown black men could experience the quality and type of love that we received from our father. We are left with great memories of tight hugs, warm feelings and wet cheeks.

Our father was a good man from the streets of Harlem New York.  From humble beginnings he rose.  He had a good life.  He had a full life. He was truly a Man of Steel and a man of love.

We will miss you Daddy.  Give our regards to Mom, Bev and my Linda.  Keep smiling down on us, as we will be looking upward and smiling up at you.

In closing I have a quote that I would like to share with you.  This quote speaks to the heart of what our father was all about:

“If you love something, love it completely, cherish it, say it, but most importantly, show it. Life is finite and fragile, and just because something is there one day, it might not be there the next.  Never take love for granted.

Say what you need to say, then say a little more. Say too much.  Show too much. Love too much.

Everything is temporary but love,

Love outlives us all.”

We love you, Daddy.

Your sons,

Anthony Peter Kane, Associate Director of the California Department of Corrections

Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Alone: Are Our Pre-Teens Out of Control?

My Dear Readers,

During a recent review of my personal Facebook news feed, I saw a picture of two African-American pre-teens exchanging a deep kiss. The young woman was wearing a t-shirt that showed a side view of her bra, and the young man’s hands were caressing her rear end.  Under the photo, the caption posed the following question:

“You come home from work and see your 12-year old daughter like that as you pull up to the house.  What would you do?”

I was taken aback by the outlandish comments that were posted in response, but I also saw this as a wonderful opportunity to participate in an exchange on expectations and reasonable ways to respond to such actions and behaviors

So, I posted the following response:

Looking at all of the previous responses, there clearly is no doubt why our young people are either distant from us as older adults or want to shut us out of their lives. Very sad indeed.

Let’s see if we can move beyond the simplistic reactions of screaming, hitting and other behaviors of shaming and humiliation. I am hopeful that there can be a reasonable discussion that can assist those who will one day find themselves in such a situation. Let’s see if we can walk in that direction. Best regards all,

Dr. Micheal Kane

I will admit that a portion of my initial response was chastising, but to be honest, my intent was to encourage dialogue that would be empowering, giving the reader the opportunity to provide assistance to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.  That, however, was pretty much rendered moot when my comment was deleted from the post, and I was blocked from posting further.

However, I was still able to review the other comments, and I saw approximately 20 postings which I would categorize this way:

Physical Violence

  • “Call 911 because I am going to beat both of their asses.”
  • “Whip her ass once for wearing what she has on, whip her ass twice for kissing that raggedy boy, whip her ass three times for letting him touch her butt and whip her ass once more for even thinking she could get away with it. She’d learn.”
  • A picture of Adrian Peterson, who is currently charged with child abuse of his four year old son, with the caption “Go get a switch, I wanna beat yo ass”
  • Picture of a Gorilla showing an angry look with the caption “That look your mom gives you when you are about to get your ass whipped”
  • “Ass whooping and we would have a long discussion afterwards.”

Death Threats

  • A picture of a group of pall bearers carrying a small casket with the caption “Guns Don’t Kill People, Dads With Pretty Daughters Kill People”
  • A picture of Liam Neeson from the Taken movies with the caption “I Will Find Him and I Will Kill Him”
  • A picture of Tyler Perry dressed as Madea cocking the hammer on her pistol with the caption “Oh Hell No!”

Shaming & Humiliation

  • Picture of a black male actor with a grim face with the caption “You Know That You Done Fucked Up Right?”
  • Picture of Elderly black woman with a sour look on her face with the caption “Lord, What is Wrong With These Children?”
  • “a) First have a long talk, b) take her to the doctor, c) make her volunteer where people get counseling for HIV and other diseases, d) give her an assignment to look up the cost of daycare and everything a baby will need, e) make her babysit a baby and make her do all the work, f) tell her that babysitting is not an option and she must fill in her schedule with after school activities, g) she will now be required to dress as a nun and h) repeat until a full understanding is met… Maybe even until she is 18 years old.”

Parental Denial

  • “She would not be my daughter, cause my daughter wouldn’t behave like that.”

Really? Threats of physical violence, death, shaming and humiliation?  For acting out in the behaviors that naturally occur as puberty approaches and sexual feelings begin to develop?  In response to this, we:

  • Beat the sexual feelings out of them?
  • Shame them; humiliate them?
  • Kill the male for what? Grabbing her butt?

As a parent and clinician working with pre-adolescent and adolescent youth, I find these responses to be disturbing.   The individuals I saw in the caption appeared to be of the same age, well groomed, wearing appropriate attire and physically attracted towards each other.

Yes, they were involved in a deep embrace, and it appeared to be mutually desired.  They were standing in the front of a residence.  They were not engaged in sexual activity.  There was no attempt to hide from plain sight.  They were very public in their actions and behaviors.

I have no doubt that it would be surprising to any parent to arrive at home and find one’s daughter and male friend involved in such behavior.   However, to be shocked, appalled or driven to physical violence, shaming, humiliation and ultimately death threats only shows that we as a society continue to deny the normal human behavior that develops among this specific age group.

What do we know about pre-adolescence?

Pre-adolescence is a stage of human development that follows early childhood and is prior to adolescence.  It generally ends at 10-13 years of age, with the beginning of puberty.

Pre-adolescents tend to have a different view of the world than their parents.  Parents may have difficulty understanding the specific changes that may occur swiftly as their child moves from the intense fantasy world of childhood to one that is more realistic.  Pre-adolescents making this transition tend to have more mature, sensible thoughts and actions than they had before.

Pre-adolescents during this stage will often develop a sense of intentionality, specifically the wish and capacity to have an impact and to act upon that with persistence.  It is also within pre-adolescence that they will have a more developed sense of looking into the future and seeing the impact of their actions.

It is also at this stage that they begin to view human relationships differently. They are beginning to develop a sense of self-identity and have increased feelings of independence.   They may begin to feel more as an “individual” and no longer “just one of the family”. It is at this stage that a different view of morality begins to emerge as well as the desire to balance one’s own needs with those in peer group activities.

So, what does all of this mean? It means that pre-adolescence is a time of “emergence”.  Unlike childhood and adolescence, it is a short period in which individuals may find themselves seeking clarity regarding newly discovered emotional and sexual feelings.

Concluding Words

Are our pre-adolescents out of control?  Simply, no. The picture just provides us with a snapshot of two very young and innocent individuals exploring and attempting to find their way in uncharted new lands.  It would actually be helpful to them for responsible adults to assist them through counsel and advice instead of going directly to punishment.

It would be emotionally wounding and psychologically damaging to ridicule or heap threats of violence, death, shame, and humiliation for normal human behavior occurring at the appropriate age level by two individuals of likewise ages.

As adults we have choices– we can make ourselves available to our inquiring youngsters filled with this growing sexual energy, or we can hold ourselves in denial and do things that are certain to drive them away from us as parents.

One of the responses that particularly stands out for me is this one:

“Whip her ass once for wearing what she has on, whip her ass twice for kissing that raggedy boy, whip her ass three times for letting him touch her butt and whip her ass once more for even thinking she could get away with it.  She’d learn.”

Right…after repeatedly getting her behind tore up she’d learn alright.  He will, too.  They will come to understand the brutality and lack of understanding of those who say that they love them.

The real question is this: As they grow into  adults, will they learn and prosper from our words and experiences, or will they just know the ignorance that we kept them in?

 

“Once burned, we learn. If we do not learn we only assure ourselves that we will be burned again and again and again until …we learn.”

Ten Flashes of Light For The Journey of Life

 Until the next crossroads….The journey continues.

The Return Home Part 1: To Be Eight Years Old Again

My Dear Readers,

I find myself standing once again at the crossroads.   After 53 years of holding onto my “inner child,” I am finally able to gather the resilience to let him go home.

To provide context: I was born in Harlem, New York, into a military family.  I spent my childhood and adolescence growing up on military bases throughout the United States as well as in foreign countries.

Along the way, one of the postings led to me spending a part of my childhood in living in Virginia.  I was 8 years old at the time, and these were the formative and developmental years of my youth—just one of the reasons why I consider myself to be a “southerner,” even though I was born in the North.

In Virginia, I became a child of segregation.  Because I was “colored,” I was bused to a “colored school” for elementary aged children.  All of our teachers and our principal were colored, so I imagined that the “colored school” was no different from any other school.

As in other schools, we played at recess, learned our lessons in class and when we were out of line, we were disciplined.   I remember my first year in school as being one of safety, security and positive self-esteem.

On the military base, I often wondered why the white kids went to a separate school that was located 10 minutes away while I was bused 35 miles away, but despite my curiosity, I did what I was told to do and did so without question.

When I turned 8 years old, my world was turned upside down when my parents told me I would be going to a white school for the coming school year.  I wasn’t told why I had to leave my school, but I did what I was told.  In talking with other kids, I heard them say a word that was new to me, “integration”.

So off to school I went.  I left behind my teacher, my classmates and friends.  I was sad, but the good thing was that the bus rides to and from school were shorter.  Like the white kids, my bus ride was now 15 minutes.

And that was how it began: 15 minutes sitting in silence riding a bus to a new school, with strangers who acted as if I was invisible.  For the next two years I would continue to be invisible to them.  I realized later on that integration actually meant meant being one of the two token “colored” kids in an all white classroom, and the isolation that comes with it.

When I reflect on those times, I vividly recall two emotions: shame and humiliation.   My classmates never allowed me to forget that I was a descendent of slaves.  My new white teacher would talk fondly of the “good old days” where she played Missy with the “pick-a-ninnys” who were her maids and servants.

I still feel the horror I felt the day that my teacher called me to her desk, stating that she had heard I did not know my alphabet.  She then directed me to stand in front of the class and recite the alphabet.  Frightened, humiliated and ashamed, I stood there and sang my ABCs, pronouncing clearly and cleanly from A to Z, and afterwards, like her little dog, I received a pat on the head as she led the class in applause for my display of brilliance in intellectual showmanship. The other colored kid, Nathaniel, closed his eyes and bowed his head.  He never said a single word to me from that day on.

I went home that day and never said a word to my parents.  Not one word.

Why didn’t I speak up then?

Because, as the pastor told us, “we were Christian soldiers.”  It was our duty to go to war against segregation. Psychological warfare.  Isolation.  Daily acts of embarrassment and humiliation.   Field trips to plantations and to Williamsburg where it was gleefully pointed out to us that slave laws and codes were enacted and enforced.

Two years into the war against segregation, more sacrifices and new soldiers were required.   Many of us left the battlefields emotionally wounded and psychologically scarred.  Simply put, the “children of segregation” were used as “cannon fodder.”  Cannon fodder is defined as:

“a informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded as expendable in the face of enemy fire.  The term is generally used in situations where combatants are forced to deliberately to fight against hopeless odds with the foreknowledge that they will suffer extremely high casualties in an effect to achieve a strategic goal.”

Specifically, the leaders of the African-American community (local, state and national) used the “children of segregation” as cannon fodder to achieve the strategic goal of racial integration of public schools throughout the southern United States. This goal and the importance of using this generation of children were clearly sold to parents as the best chance for a quality public education for their children.

Our parents, knowing what was “best,” willingly gave us to the cause. And, the children did as we were instructed to do.  However, neither our parents nor our community or pastoral leadership provided us with the resources we would need to deal with our emotional wounds, such as counseling or therapy.  In those days, just as it is today, the disclosure of internal secrets and feelings in counseling and therapy was taboo.

So, we did then as we do today…we suffered in silence.

Why speak up now?

Because we need not suffer in silence any longer.   The “children of segregation” can choose to let go of their pain and suffering.  We have done our duty for our community, now it is time for the children of segregation to reach out and embrace the self.

For me specifically, it is time for me to let the 8-year-old me and the things that I experienced go.  It is time to let that version of me go and do what normal 8 year olds do: go out and play.  I have carried him all of these 53 years, and I will carry him no longer.  He is welcome to visit in my memories, and I will embrace him. However, he cannot stay.  To him I say, “go out and play.”

It is for the 61 year old me to continue my journey of self-discovery.   What will it benefit me to go back?  53 years after the fact, there is no going back.  I am returning.  It is time to place the past where it belongs.  I will return to my old colored school and the one that I integrated.  I will walk the old legislative halls of Williamsburg.  I will proclaim what is now my truth: that I am no longer enslaved to the past.  I am free.

Stay tuned…

Standing at the crossroads,

Dr. Micheal Kane

Reconceptualizing Parental Fear– Part 2: FEAR– Facing Everything And Responding

Go Slow and Steady…Cross the finish line…Finish the Race

Dr. Micheal Kane

In Part I of At the Crossroads:  Re-conceptualizing Parental Fear…, the focus of the writing included the following:

  • Conceptualizing fear and the privileges assigned to certain people in authority, power, and control to protect the members of the larger group ( family, community, society)
  • The impact on fear on ethnic minority parents as well as their inability to protect their children from being targeted by the police or other individuals within a society
  • Encouraging the ethnic minority individual to conceptualize the situations he/she may face in daily living as similar to “running a race.”
  • Utilizing the concept of “running the race” as a metaphor, encouraging the ethnic minority individual to develop and utilize empowerment strategies.

For this writing, we will focus on:

  • Assisting the ethnic minority individual to seek empowerment of self, rather than “giving up” power generally associated with the privileges of authority, power and control.
  • Identifying and clarifying the roles, relationships and duties of the participants associated in the race, i.e., “runners” (the police officer and the prosecutor), referees (the judge/court commissioners) and the fans/bleachers (the viewing public, society).
  • Identifying and discussing strategies for the ethnic minority individual to utilize when interacting with a police officer or others who consider themselves to be an authority figure.
  • Discussion of the Ten Commandants and Eight Golden Rules Outlying Safety Tips in interacting with others in society.

Part I concluded with the model of The Five Rs of RELIEF.  Using this model, the individual would ideally become engaged in the process of “transformation” (i.e., unification of thoughts and feelings) and be able to draw upon the following points of awareness:

  • Awareness #1
    The ethnic minority individual must want to understand the physical makeup of the competition (i.e., standing at the starting line). The ethnic minority individual must want to understand that while he/she is lining up with the other runners, there may be the appearance of competition; however, in reality the other runners may also be collaborating together with the purpose to defeat him/her.

Among these possible “participants” are the following: law enforcement, prosecutors, bail bondsmen, corrections, and probation and parole officers.  The “officials” (referees) regulating the “appearance of fairness” of the race are the judiciary.  In the “bleachers” are the fans.  The fans include the members of society i.e. the larger group.

However, the playing field is also complicated by the fact that in this climate of gun proliferation, fans can often assume the role of participants and officials, which makes it even more difficult for the ethnic minority individual to find his/her path. Thus, this reinforces the “want” of the ethnic minority individual to change one’s strategy so he/she can “run the race smarter not harder.”

Police and prosecutors are often very competitive with each other.  It is not unusual that they do not trust each other.  However, in order to perform in their respective professions, they “need” (survival or the system fails) to work together to win the race.  The “rules” are set in a way that forces the police and prosecutor to “depend” (again, survival or the systems fails) on each other in order to achieve success (arrest/conviction).

As indicated earlier, the police are in the first “lane” because they are responsible for making the arrest.  The prosecutor is in the second “lane” because they are responsible for filing formal charges.  It is important for the ethnic minority individual to want to understand that the police, while they can make the formal arrest by the rules (law), they cannot file the formal charges.

The same rule (law) applies for the prosecutors.  They can file the formal charges; they can also order or direct the arrest, but they cannot institute the formal arrest.  This action is left in the purview of the police.  Once again, both runners are by the rules (law), dependent on each other and thus bound in what can be at times described as a conflicted and hostile “marriage.”

However, this is different in cases where other individual members of society are involved.  Where police and prosecutors have defined roles and responsibilities that they are expected to operate within, other members of society are not bound by those rules, and the police and prosecutors only come into play after the altercation is done.  It is incumbent upon the ethnic minority individual to be aware of this, and to understand that because rights exist, that does not mean that they will be respected without the threat of prosecution.

  • Awareness #2

The ethnic minority individual must want to understand that although he/she is impacted by stereotypes created by the larger group (society), the same applies to the sub-units that the larger group (society)  has given special privileges (authority, power and control) to enforce the law, as well as other individuals that are also governed by these sub-units.

Consequently, these internalized feelings (stereotypes) serve to impact those relationships.  Non-minority individuals may believe that the police are not sufficient to provide protection, so they form militias, or at the very least, arm themselves.

However, as stated earlier, they are dependent on each other; therefore it is essential that all the sub-units “respect” each other.  Trust is not a “commitment” of this marriage (conflict and hostile).  Trust can develop over time depending on interactions created by individuals working together during the experience of the “marriage”.

If the relationship between two individuals of competing sub-units is good, then trust between those two individuals is created.  This level of trust is never extended to anyone outside the relationship of the two individuals.

  • Awareness #3

The ethnic minority individual must want to understand and be aware of the lack of trust between his competitors, and the lack of trust they have in him.  The two competitors are aware that the nature of their respective professions and responsibilities create a need that each sub-unit respects the other in order to accomplish their respective goals, regardless of how divergent those goals may be.

Strategy #1- The Running of the Race

The ethnic minority individual must want to focus on crossing the finish line (completing the race).  In doing so he/she must want to drop the focus on winning, and even on fairness; again, understanding that the rules and the other runners are set up to compete against the ethnic minority individual.

Strategy #2- Interactions & Relationships

The ethnic minority individual must want to understand the interactions and relationships among the competitors.

Therefore, the ethnic minority individual must want to understand the difference phases of “contact and interaction” with each runner in the race.  It is essential for the ethnic minority individual to remember the following three rules regarding non-serious and serious encounters and the magic word(s) when feeling endangered or uncomfortable:

  1. Rule A – All encounters are potentially serious encounters.
  1. Rule B – Magic Words #1: “I pose no danger to you or to your family or possessions.”
  1. Rule C- Magic Words #2: “I am going to remain silent. I want to speak to a lawyer.”
  1. Rule D – Magic Words #3, “I do not consent to the search of my vehicle, home or
    personal possessions.

If the ethnic minority individual is of minor age (has not achieved their 18th birthday), the “magic words” slightly change to include the following:

  1. “I am a minor. I am (state age and date of birth).  I want to have my parent or
    guardian present before you ask me any questions.”
  1. My parent(s) name(s) is/are.
  1. My parent’s phone number is.
  1. I reside at (give residential address).
  1. I attend (if appropriate) provide name of school.
  1. I have nothing else to say until my parent or attorney is present.

 

Strategy #3 Forms of Encounters With Police Officers

The ethnic minority individual must want to understand AND identify the different types of encounters one can experience when interacting with police officers specifically.

  1. The Conversational Encounter – This is when the police officer is attempting to get information from the individual but doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest. This encounter is also referred to as the “casual encounter” or “friendly conversation”
  1. The Detention Encounter – This is when the police officer can detain the individual only if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual has been involved in a crime. Detention means that although the individual has not been arrested, he/she can’t leave.
  1. The Arrest Encounter – This is when the police officer can make a formal arrest having found probable cause that the individual has been involved in a crime.
  1. Remember, it is the responsibility of the police officer to make the formal arrest. It is the responsibility of the second runner (prosecutor) to file the formal charges.
  1. Once arrested, the individual must be placed within the centralized computer database and processed (booking-identified/fingerprinted).
  1. Once arrested, the individual by law and police procedure cannot be “unarrested”.
  1. The recording of the arrest, its filing within the National Crime Information Center computer database (NCIC) AND remains “forever” (survives following death of the individual) whether or not charges are filed by the secondary runner (prosecutor).

The Ten Commandants of Safety for Ethnic Minority Individuals When Interacting With the Police Officer “THOU SHALL OR SHALL NOT.”

  1. Always be RESPECTFUL to the police officer.
  1. Never be DISRESPECTFUL to the police officer.
  1. If inclined to speak to the police officer always be HONEST.
  1. Never provide FALSE information to the police officer.
  1. When interacting with the police officer ALWAYS keep your hands in plain sight and away from your body. NEVER initiate any MOVEMENT without the police officer’s AWARENESS and CONSENT.
  1. When riding in a vehicle and being followed by a patrol car, ASSUME that the police officer is “running” (seeking to identify) your license plates through the computerized database searching for warrants or any viable information regarding the vehicle. ASSUME the police officer is “searching” and “observing” for a reason to stop the vehicle.
  1. NEVER consent to a search of your person, belongings, vehicle or residence by the police officer.
  1. NEVER resist the actions of the police officer should the police officer chose to perform a search of your person, belongings, vehicle or residence.
  1. If formally arrested or detained due to concerns for the “police officer’s safety”, DO NOT RESIST. Follow the instructions and directions of the police officer.  DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS WITHOUT BEING IN THE PRESSENCE OF AN ATTORNEY.
  1. If you are dissatisfied with how the incident was handled by the police officers involved use your skills of observation, memory and details (date, time place). DO NOT act in the following manner: (REMEMBER, DO NOT) use profanity or make verbal or physical threats.
  1. DO NOT threaten to have the police officer terminated or threats of contacting his supervisor.
  1. DO NOT request the police officer’s name or business card. Instead, QUIETLY observe the police officer’s badge number and ID number located on the police vehicle.
  1. DO NOT video or record in plain sight of the police officer.
  1. DO NOT contact his direct supervisor. INSTEAD, document the incident (date, time, place, persons involved, police officers badge numbers and/or identification number of patrol vehicle) and FILE A WRITTEN REPORT directly to the Internal Affairs Section of the police department.
  1. Send a copy of the report to the mayor’s office, your local representative (city, county, State, federal) and the civil rights organization in the local or regional area.

 

Concluding Remarks

There are two other sub-units that are involved in the race (referees – the judiciary) and those individuals sitting in the bleachers, i.e., fans (members of the larger group).  Always remember that the referees (judges) do not make the rules.  The responsibility of the judiciary is to ensure that those involved, the “playing field” is level and all runners abide by the “rules” of the race.

The fans, the larger group, simply want to see a good race.  The fans are the audience.  They want to see the race being run without any impact or, if any, the objective for the police is to have minimal influence in their daily lives.  However, as we have seen in recent months, fans have often taken matters into their own hands when they feel that the police have not done their best in protecting them.  It is this fear and dissatisfaction that can be taken out on the ethnic minority individual who is not aware.

The fans will yell “foul” only when they observe a “flagrant violation (actual video recordings of a helpless Rodney King being hit and repeatedly beaten LAPD officers) or when they are pressed the fear button (i.e., the riots of Los Angeles following the jury verdict of acquittal for the police officers involved in the brutal attack of Rodney King).  Otherwise the fans prefer not to know how the police used the rights (authority, power, control) granted to them to enforce the “rule of law.”

It is essential that the ethnic minority individual understand and come to accept that he/she is in the race alone competing with other runners who, although may not trust each other, clearly understand that they must work together in order to be successful in “controlling and managing” the identified individual (the ethnic minority individual).

  • Eight Psychological Golden Rules for the Ethnic Minority Individual When Interacting With the Police:
  1. Respect the police officer. Respect his/her profession.  Respect his/her designated privileges of authority, power and control.  Never Blindly Trust the police officer.  Trust is earned, not given away.  Remain “COOL, CALM, COLLECTIVE and CALCULATIVE” of thoughts and emotions during the interaction.
  2. Be friendly and remember you are not there in the interaction to create new and meaningful relationships. Once the interaction is over, it is over.  Move forward and return to your “normal” (hopefully, non-traumatized) life.
  3. Remember the police officer may be functioning off a set of stereotypes or misbeliefs that have nothing to do with you, as much as it hurts …. just remember your complexion may not rate the protection.
  4. Remember to work at not internalizing the interaction with the police officer. Internalizing the interaction may only serve to further the traumatization you may be experiencing.  This in turn will only serve to be destructive on one’s physical and emotional health.
  5. Remember that due to a combination of various factors (i.e., complexion, ethnicity and gender); there will be without doubt many more such interactions that will occur in the lifespan of the ethnic minority individual.
  6. Remember your objectives (which are the same for the police officer).
  7. Safe stop.
  8. Keep the interaction professional and short as possible.
  9. Come home to your loved ones alive and unhurt.
  10. Gain the ability to wake up, live life and enjoy another day.
  1. Never, ever (ever!!) run from the police officer. This behavior may place you at risk of physical injury or death.
  1. And keep at the forefront the MAGIC WORDS
  1. Magic Words #1 – “I am going to remain silent. I want to speak to a lawyer.”
  1. Magic Words #2 – “I do not consent to the search.”

In Chinese astrology and numerology the number 8 is the symbol of prosperity.  “May your path be long and prosperous.  May you live in interesting times and enjoy your own personal Journey of Self Discovery”.

Dr. Micheal Kane

 

NOTE:  PLEASE READ

Please note that this writer is not an attorney.  The advice given is a result of combination of clinical experience, research and daily living.  For legal advice, it is strongly suggested that the reader consult with an attorney.  An attorney can be identified in the local State bar association

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“We have entered an age in which education is not just a luxury permitting some men an advantage over others.  It has become a necessity without which a person is defenseless in this complex, industrialized society.  We have truly entered the century of the educated man.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

37th President of the United States

 

Until the next crossroads – The journey continues